I was listening to the sometimes great Hanselminutes podcast while working and sadly his “Algorithms of Oppression” interview came on. Put broadly it was about how how algorithmic bias can “shape the world”. It was terrible and it occurred to me that while every good technology podcast interview is good in a different way, every bad technology podcast interview is bad in the same way, namely the interviewee talks about their personal opinions on something, sometimes named as
- “their worldview”
- “the way the world really works”
- “the big picture
I’m reminded of John Boyd’s notion (paraphrased) “You must eventually choose to do something or to be someone, but not both”. To be notable in technology one has chosen to do something and when they talk about themselves (i.e. the way in which they “are someone”) their forced to talk about themselves (or worldview/paradigm/etc) and it comes up very lacking.
As I remarked in an earlier post, the defensive boxing style of Pernell Whitaker changed my view of the world.
It is a matter of precision,. Were one to break boxing down four factors it would be speed, power, direction and angle. Whitaker was able to perceive the speed of a fighter, his power from a certain position, his exact balance, and the angle between him and his opponent to a much finer degree than any of his opponents. As Pop would put it, he could measure to three decimal places, while his appoints where stuck at one. This more exact information allowed him to go almost his entire career without taking a punch while delivering perfectly places punches himself.
The lesson I suppose is that an incremental improvement in perception allows a categorical change in the quality of the action.
Here are ideas and historical (no emotional connection to me) events that have fundamentally affected my outlook.
In no particular order
- Pareto Optimality
- Coase Theorem
- Hayek and Sowell on the limits and costs of knowledge
- Gresham’s law
- Napoleon’s invasion of Russia
- Dominant Strategies
- Schelling Points (as elaborated on by David Friedman)
- The seatbelts kill theory of Steven Landsburg (though the theory might actually originate with George Stigler)
- The diaries of Eric Hoffer (and his books, they’re fairly similar) as they deal with mass movements
- Network effects
- Robert Nozick’s notion of morality as a time saving device (morality is used very broadly) as explained in the Examined Life
- The defensive boxing style of Pernell Whitaker
I’ll have more detail on what they are and how they are all used later.